Meet Our Trainers
We are consistently amazed by the many people who chose to lead, serve, create for our organization. These trainers and facilitators are sharing their skills and expertise and investing in our Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship fellows. We thank the many people who are donating their time and sharing their knowledge to ensure the first class of EDF fellows are better, brighter, stronger, and ready for their meaningful experience.
In the summer of 2013, Nesanet opened the first Ethiopian restaurant in South Los Angeles with her mother and head chef, Azla. Chef Azla’s culinary expertise and commitment to traditional wisdom is complemented by Nesanet’s extensive studies and work in the education, wellness, and marketing industries. Moreover, Nesanet’s training in Biological Sciences at Stanford University and UCLA, her studies at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and yoga instructor certification greatly inform ingredient choices and food preparation techniques at Azla.
Helena Bish Alemu is and Ethiopian Diaspora who is the founder of MetaVibe Coaching Solutions, a coaching service that helps expat and diaspora families and individuals navigate identity and cross cultural challenges. In the past, she worked in Eastern and Southern Africa undertaking training work for African Union, Peace and Security Department and UN Missions. Helena was also one of the participants of Diaspora for development program by Cuso International where she volunteered as a program coordinator for a local NGO that is based in Hawassa.
She has a B.A. in Political Science from Addis Ababa University, M.A. in Development Studies from Institute of Development Studies, Addis Ababa and M.A. in Conflict Resolution from European Peace University, Vienna. She is also a certified Life Coach from Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. She is married and blessed with a child and lives in Queens, New York where she coaches and trains people in mediation, cross cultural communication and life potential energy leadership.
Nathan graduated from Concordia University in 2008. He is the Director for Sincerely, Ethiopia, an exciting documentary that showcases the lives of ordinary people in Ethiopia who are addressing illiteracy, lack of accessibility for persons with disabilities, and other social issues. He has also worked as a Public Relations Youth Director for 3 years doing marketing, directing/hosting events; in addition to filming, producing, writing, editing, mentoring, counseling, and public speaking. Currently, Nathan is enrolled in a Masters of Business Administration program and working as an Admissions Counselor for Concordia University-Irvine.
Eva Maria Chavez is a second year graduate student at the School of International Service at American University in DC. She is pursuing a Masters Degree in International Development, with a concentration in youth and community development. She is currently researching the relationship between US and Mexico through the Merida Initiative, where she focuses on community resilience. Before attending graduate school she lived in Spain, Cameroon, and South Korea teaching English. She became involved with community development once in Cameroon working with youth. She was a consultant for a non-profit in Nairobi, Kenya, where she developed a toolkit for informal schools on community engagement in the slums of Kibera and Mathare. Eva is currently an evaluation intern at DWC and plans on pursuing a Fulbright Research grant in Mexico next year.
Nishima Chudasama was the Associate Producer and Campaign Production Manager at Girl Rising. Her background in international development, theater, media production, and higher education led her to become a key member in the Girl Rising production and campaign teams. Recently, she produced “Jessica’s Story,” directed by Libby Spears, for Chime For Change, an initiative by Gucci that promotes education, health and justice for girls and women around the world. Nishima recently traveled to New Delhi with Director Richard Robbins for the India premier of Girl Rising. While there, she was responsible for managing the campaign’s relationships with celebrity and policy influencers. She holds a Master’s degree with distinction in Art History and Archaeology from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and graduated summa cum laude from Emory University with degrees in English and Women’s Studies.
Fitsum Alemayehu Fanta was born and raised in Ethiopia and migrated to California in 2012. While in Ethiopia, Fitsum worked as an International Development worker with field experience, addressing global issues of poverty alleviation, and community-oriented program development. He has helped set-up and maintain field offices in Ethiopia which focused on child sponsorship and community development. Leading initiatives by partnering with community mobilizers, Fitsum found that strategy and infrastructure was essential to social impact. Fitsum is currently obtaining his Masters of International Public Policy and Management from University of Southern California. Through EDF, Fitsum hopes to empower the Diaspora population to understand and be part of the economic and social development of Ethiopia.
Meseret is originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the program director of the Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship program. After receiving her BS and BA from the University of Denver, Meseret attended Regis University, where she received her MS in Biomedical Sciences. She then went on to work as an affiliate faculty member at two institutions: Regis University and Red Rocks Community College. As a faculty member, she discovered her love of teaching and mentoring students. Currently, Meseret is a Ph.D student in the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver, where she is researching access to education for marginalized women in Ethiopia. After graduation, Meseret is interested in working as a professor and researcher. Through EDF, Meseret hopes to equip Ethiopians in the Diaspora with the skills and opportunity to serve their country of origin in a meaningful way. She is particularly excited to see how Fellows and organizations dedicated to women’s advocacy will mutually benefit from one another.
John E. Kobara
John E. Kobara is a respected figure nationally in the philanthropic and nonprofit communities. As executive vice president and chief operating officer of California Community Foundation, he is responsible for the development, marketing, administrative, grantmaking, civic engagement and donor relations functions of the foundation.
He joined the foundation in 2008 to head the external and donor relations department. From 2003 to 2008, he was on the foundation’s board of directors while serving as head of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles. For 35 years, Kobara has been leading and managing innovative nonprofit organizations, companies and technology startups, and actively involved in advancing social justice by increasing access to educational opportunities in Los Angeles.In 2007, Kobara received the City of Angels Award for his service on behalf of children and families. He was a Coro Fellow in Los Angeles and earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, a master’s in business administration from USC and a master’s degree from Occidental College.
Abby Fifer Mandell is the Executive Director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab (BSEL) at USC’s Marshall School of Business. Abby oversees all BSEL staff, academic offerings, co-curricular programs, events, and initiatives. She designs curriculum for affiliated courses and teaches BAEP 471: Social Innovation Design Lab, an undergraduate course in which interdisciplinary teams of students use design thinking to create product solutions to poverty in California’s Central Valley.
Prior to joining the Lab staff, Abby served as the Director of Admissions of the graduate school of education at American Jewish University in Los Angeles. As a private consultant for Brailsford & Dunlavey, she designed educational programs and facilities at Duke University, The University of Vermont, Dartmouth University, and UC Riverside, among others. Abby has taught students in every grade from kindergarten to graduate school and her research has been published in ACUI’sThe Bulletin, University Business, and NACAS’s College Service.
Abby was instrumental in creating LimmudLA, a grassroots, communal learning experience in Southern California. She holds a master’s degree in educational administration and received her B.A. from the University of Virginia, where she was student body president. She serves on the board of Question Box, a hardware and helpline program solution that connects people in remote villages around the world.
Samson Mengistu is the Deputy Executive Director for Administration at Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA). In this position he oversees the functions of the Comptroller, Board of Airport Commissioners (BOAC) Office, Human Resources, Risk Management and Contract Services. Mengistu joined the City in 1989 after working extensively in the property management field. In an early assignment, he established and managed LAWA’s widely acclaimed Soundproofing Program. Immediately prior to his current position, he served as Deputy Executive Director for Finance and Administration and as LAWA’s Acting Executive Director from February to June 2007. Mengistu was appointed Deputy Executive Director of Board Relations and Special Programs in 2003, serving as BOAC liaison. In addition, he was in charge of LAWA’s $500 million Property Acquisition Program and the Risk Management and Procurement divisions. As Chief Assistant to the Executive Director from 1999 to 2003, he assisted in managing and directing a staff of approximately 2,500 professional, technical, and support personnel.
Rekik Neway is currently an undergraduate student at Los Angeles Valley College in Valley Glen, CA. She is majoring in Multi-Media Studies, with an emphasis on film and television. In addition to her studies, Rekik also works as a Social Media Associate for Tiny Horse Productions, a production company based in Marina Del Rey that co-produces shows, events, and films. In her role, she maintains the social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine) for various projects like the Bentonville Film Festival, an event that focuses on championing women of diversity in film and television. Rekik has also been in other projects for productions like, “America’s Got Talent’,” “America Ninja Warriors,” and “The Voice UK.”
Molly Nichelson is public aairs professional, having worked in the fields of energy, healthcare and transportation for the past 15 years. She has worked across the United States in California, Washington, D.C. and most recently Wyoming. Molly was born and raised in California, and is originally from San Diego County. She has her degree in Public Relations from Marquette University and is currently a candidate in International Public Aairs and Management at USC.
Dr. Kim Osborne
Recognized as a national and international authority in strategic communications, Dr. Osborne has been an advisor to senior leaders of U.S. and foreign militaries and governments, Fortune 500 companies, institutions of higher education, and nonprofit organizations. She presently holds the endowed C-SPAN Chair at the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University. She is also the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ShinePath LLC, an international management and communications consulting firm. In her previous role as the Chief Strategic Communications Advisor to the Afghan National Security Forces, she reorganized the Afghan National Army’s communications structure, developed a training plan for senior leadership, and shaped media messaging during the presidential elections and withdrawal of the longest NATO mission in history. For these accomplishments, she received a personal commendation from Afghanistan’s Minister of Defense as well as awards and medals from the U.S. Department of Defense and NATO/ISAF. In federal service, she also served as the Chief of Research Communications for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration.
As a corporate executive, she launched best-selling software titles for Symantec Corporation; advised senior leadership at General Motors during a multi-billion dollar work stoppage that idled 200,000 workers; and managed the public launch of the fastest-growing, most profitable business unit in Kelly Services’ history. She has led communications efforts at other leading organizations including the University of Georgia, American Honda Motor Company, ABC/Capital Cities, Chevrolet Motor Division, and public relations firms Fleishman-Hillard, and Manning Selvage and Lee.
An accomplished presenter and award-winning writer, Dr. Osborne earned a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia’s top-ranked program in adult education. Her dissertation was a critical study of the power relations and interests that shape television news production. Her academic expertise includes media literacy, cultural studies, power and hegemony, and program planning. She earned a master’s degree in communications management from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Kalamazoo College. She also is a graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College at National Defense University. She was recently named to the roster of Fulbright Specialists and works as a mentor/advisor encouraging educational capacity-building in foreign universities and governments.
Dr. Osborne enjoys volunteer work in her free time. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation and as a legislative affairs advisor for the Global Gateway Foundation. She was an AmeriCorps member for two years serving Communities In Schools of Detroit, and she is a strategy advisor to the Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship, a start-up nonprofit leadership development program based in Los Angeles and Addis Ababa.
Jen Simmons started her career in the banking industry and watched it flip upside down during the height of the recession. The experience sparked a deep interest in organizational behavior, communication, resiliency and transformation. In 2012, Jen wanted more meaning from her work, but didn’t know where to begin. She sold her belongings and moved from Texas to Australia to California, where she pursued graduate-level coursework in sustainability. To supplement her sustainability education, Jen took classes in neuroscience, creative writing and world politics. In 2013, Jen realized her passion for storytelling. Using images from her dreams, she wrote a novel-length epic poem about transformation and embracing the unknown. Through writing the story, Jen communicated with herself by bringing unconscious thoughts and behaviors into her awareness. The story is written as a personal transformation, but serves as a model for organizational and societal transformation.
Jen currently works for ROI Communication, a management consulting firm specializing in employee communication and engagement. In addition to her work with ROI, Jen volunteers as a Chapter President of Net Impact, a nonprofit that encourages private-sector leaders to address some of the world’s toughest economic, social and environmental challenges.
Aida Solomon first conceived the concept of HabeshaLA, a creative agency, while working as an entertainment writer in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Upon returning to Southern California, Aida decided to bring together the creative Ethiopian and Eritrean diaspora by launching a Tumblr blog that features Habesha talent. In 2014, Aida and her team officially launched HabeshaLA.com. Aside from her role as director of HabeshaLA, Aida recently received her Master’s degree in Management from the University of Southern California.
Kip Stringfellow is currently the Director of Business Development for Groceryships. At this organization, he leads marketing, fundraising, and partnership efforts to grow the organization and develop additional programs. Before working with Groceryships, Kip was one of the first team members and Director of Business Development at Singularity University, an organization in Silicon Valley focused on education and entrepreneurship for rapidly accelerating technologies. Kip has participated in several international volunteer projects in Ethiopia, Brazil, and Bulgaria and is inspired by organizations focused on addressing health and education disparities around the world. Kip graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in History, with a concentration in international affairs and economics.
Dr. Tekeste Teclu
Dr. Tekeste Teclu is a leadership and management expert with a doctorate degree in Educational Administration and Leadership. Dr. Tekeste has spent 30+ years working in a variety of leadership positions, both in the U.S. and Ethiopia. Early in his career, Dr. Tekeste realized his passion for youth and university student leadership development and worked diligently to invest in his own generation. Dr. Tekeste served as the Executive Director of the Ethiopian Evangelical Churches in America for over 7 years before returning to Ethiopia to start a leadership and management department at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology. Dr. Tekeste is currently a visiting professor at the University of Northern Iowa, where he is working on writing a book about his academic and professional experiences. Dr. Tekeste is passionate about educating the new generation and developing efficient leaders for the future.
Dr. Mahlet Tekeste
Dr. Mahlet Tekeste is an Ethiopian-born American with a doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology from University of Denver. Dr. Mahlet has worked with a wide range of clinical settings–from outpatient child and family therapy to inpatient psychiatry, with sex offenders, and carrying out assessments/evaluations for the court systems. Her interests include child and family therapy, trauma-informed care, and forensics. She is passionate about justice reform; providing quality care for underserved populations; and working at the intersection of economic, racial and justice issues. She strives to use her education to serve disenfranchised populations.
Rediate is a first generation Ethiopian-American and founder of Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship. Through learning the importance of forming identity as a diaspora through her own experiences, Rediate started EDF as a medium to build bridges between the educated diaspora and Ethiopia. Rediate has worked for social action organizations including the Clinton Initiative, America Reads Program leading education efforts through community partnerships in low-income areas. Upon moving back to Ethiopia, she worked for World Vision Ethiopia as a journalist, and then built the communication department at Selam Children’s Village. Rediate discovered her passion for social impact media while working as an international Field Producer/Production Coordinator for Girl Rising. Most recently she worked in Ethiopia and Uganda to complete an internship with the renowned Population Media Center. She received her B.A in Interpersonal and Intercultural Communications at Arizona State University and her Master of Communication Management degree at University of Southern California.
Jerusalem is a recent alumna of Pepperdine University, where she studied Business Administration. After graduating, she spent 9 months in Ethiopia as Fulbright Fellow, where she researched the retention of Ethiopian physicians at local hospitals. As a first generation Ethiopian-American, Jerusalem has the desire to understand and improve U.S relations with Ethiopia to a greater degree.
Dr. Deginesh Worku
Dr. Deginesh Worku is a licensed mental health counselor with 25+ years of experience. She has a doctorate degree is in Psychology and Master’s degree in Counseling. Her work ranges from residential treatment, to in-home therapy and university counseling. Dr. Deginesh now runs her own private practice, Peace of Mind Counseling, LLC. She is often invited to speak with Ethiopian communities about the cultural gaps between parents and first/second generation immigrant children. Dr. Deginesh is passionate about marriage counseling and advocates for gender equality through her skills and expertise. She works to see change and growth within the Ethiopian community.